Springing into Spring at the Cerulean Collective
As I sit here watching the snow falling outside my window, I think back to visiting Cerulean Arts this past Sunday when it seemed that Spring was finally on its way. What a reminder that weather can change. This is rather like going through the spaces at the Cerulean Arts Collective exhibitions where each artist presents powerful works of distinctive character that change the “weather” of each room. The climes, in this case, are Liz Price, Cathleen Cohen, Denise Sedor, Michael Moore, and Patricia Ingersoll.
The first gallery could be described as sun-filled. The paintings by Liz Price are mostly still
lifes with an occasional landscape emphasizing plants. Although some of the paintings are on paper and some on panel, the way the paint is treated did not change. It is glided on and luxuriant with colors reminiscent of Pierre Bonnard. But the smaller paintings, generally on paper, felt more crowded and thus the paint felt more interconnected and woven—almost like a brocade. The larger paintings, generally on panel, allowed for more space between objects. This not only permits focus on each separate part but gives the paintings animation—as if the plant leaves are quivering in the air and light. The painting in the hall outside of her gallery encapsulates everything in her style: careful coordination of her palette, paint application that allows us to see the process, intervals within a busy field that specify objects and light. Called “Apple Tree and Benches”; it is a real show-stopper.
Cathleen Cohen’s art work in the next gallery feels breezy by contrast. This is not to say that they are easy as much as to express their ease and fluidity. In the non-objective works, marks made of aqueous media (think watercolor and gouache) and graphite appear to be tossed across a page. Sometimes these shapes and lines seem to connect to become something recognizable, sometimes they are islands. But as I look I become aware that, in either case, the ground and the shapes they make contribute to this feeling AND that I am recognizing my own analogies, my own interpretations. This seems reasonable for her work—the idea of expressing analogy and metaphor-- as Cohen is also a poet. A book, “Camera Obscura”, is present with her other materials. Like her art work, these are reflections on reflection with some beautiful observations that are recognizable to anyone who holds themselves as artist or studied art. After skimming it, I bought it. Cathleen Cohen has a way with symbols.
The paintings of Denise Sedor would represent the winter of this group of artists for its arresting starkness. This starkness comes in many forms. First, the surfaces are layered and scraped and layered again in oil paint leading to a sense of a wall worn by time and circumstance. Second the figures in most of the paintings are defined but not detailed; they are more like shadows or forms seen through smoke not atmosphere. Third, these figures are often placed in groupings, but the arrangements leave each figure to feel singular, isolated. More like Joseph Conrad’s, “We live as we dream. Alone.” But these are not art works based on dream or memory. Rather, they are layers of paint lending a weight to the epiphany of figures. Plus, the color used is often electric or highly saturate and contrasty against cooler, darker, or duller grounds. And the paint application appears more patchy, not soft and undulating. Although abstract in style, these works are concrete: They must weigh a ton.
Entering Michael Moore’s exhibition is like standing in the midst of changing weather systems. And like the weather, you can expect one thing then get another. For example, at a distance the work appears almost mechanically made. Who could or would be so meticulous and methodical in producing so many marks in succession that subsequently change in weight and texture? But on closer inspection you see and feel that hand busily working out the page bringing it to another dimension. A dimension of the relational, not the rational. Moore does not stick to developing conventional space on a two-dimensional surface. There is a lot of figure-ground play here. Blackened areas can recede to become the background or create an emerging shape or be used to demarcate or be used to join. No mark seems a definition on its own but is defined by its circumstance, its connection to other marks. It makes me wonder if he is asking us questions that only art can express: human’s relationship to each other, human’s relationship to Nature and their world, human’s relationship to their interior world.
Patricia Ingersoll’s gallery of work was the perfect ending for me. It brought me home. As a “Jersey Girl”, I live near rivers, lakes, and streams, and not far from the shore. Ingersoll made what, for me, is very familiar unfamiliar. But this was not a sense of strange or abnormal. Her paintings gave exactly the sense of water and sky that one associates with seascapes. I could not identify a season or a time of day. They feel permanent and solid. Which is doubly surprising because these are works on paper that suggest they are on something more substantial—like a panel or even a piece of slate. Part of this comes from the composition which breaks the paper into geometric sections with allusions to areas of water, sky, rock, grasses by patterns. The paint quality is dense, smooth, sometimes glassy sometimes not. I could see these works being large frescoes, which is not surprising as Ingersoll has executed several murals throughout the Philadelphia area.
All of these artworks will be on view at Cerulean Arts Collective Gallery through March 31st. You can also see images of them at ceruleanarts.com/pages/exhibitions or by going to each artist’s individual artist page found through the listings at www.ceruleanarts.com/pages/artists-1.
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